More for hockey players, less for watchers – a rant:

Hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately, having good vision of the immediate past is effectively worthless for a hockey player. No two shifts are the same, and your job is to be great in the moment, not analyze what happened after and know what you should have done (I should’ve shot that!). There are bloggers who make a living off that. (He should’ve shot that!)

I can’t remember a time where I made an error on a play that could have resulted in a goal for my team, I was told by a teammate to do something else the next time, the same situation came up a few shifts later, and we scored. Hockey is fun because each shift is almost always different. “The next time we have a 2-on-1 on that d-man” probably isn’t gonna happen anytime soon.

So that brings me to my point: shut the truck up on the bench, especially in rec hockey.

I don’t actually mean “shut up” – we can talk about what happened last shift, or what we want to do next shift, there’s just nothing worse than sitting beside a guy who wants to tell you when he was open and what should happen during particular plays. Emotions are high, and it inspires more venom than it does productivity.

I watched Oil Change the other day on the NHL Network, and was intrigued by an annoyed Taylor Hall listening to Shawn Horcoff explain that “when you do that, I’m open in the slot.” …I got this, Shawn, thanks.

There are in-game things worthy of discussing – D-man X appears to be off his game, let’s take it at him. The ref seems to have put his whistle away, let’s get physical. But never…okay, almost never, is there a thing you can repeatedly do that elicits the same reaction from a hockey team. Doling out advice - most specifically stuff like ”I’m open in the slot” – is nothing but negative.

I’m a golfer. I played high school basketball. I played baseball until college. I’m just a jock, overall, and I feel comfortable saying this – no sport leaves you thinking “I should’ve” or “We should’ve” or “He should’ve” more than hockey. If you want, you can talk about every shift for longer than it took in real time, and you can apologize for a half-dozen things you should’ve done differently or could’ve done better.

And, for many years, I was that guy. “Sorry about that pass, could’ve been flatter.” “Yeah, sorry about that, I thought he was going to reverse it.” “Sorry man, I gotta bury that.” …Until eventually an older player – like, a decade older – told me to STFU on the bench. Apologies, pass requests, whatever – it’s mostly wasted energy. Your teammates know when they missed you, or when you missed them. Nobody was trying to do it on purpose.

Those comments aren’t positive, they’re negative. It’s annoying, and it detracts from the things you did well during the shift before.

So on the bench with your linemates, heed the lesson I learned in the AHL: just shut up. Drink your water or gatorade, clean your visor, watch the game, and shut up.

Telling your linemates when and where you were open gets you nowhere.

Comments (12)

  1. “Man, if coach’d just put me in… we’d have gone to state!”

  2. To be fair, Malkin’s probably just telling Neal he’s been lazy since he signed his big contract in this picture. That’s not true, of course, but not being true hasn’t stopped Geno from telling Neal, the locker room, the media, his twitter followers and anyone who will listen about how lazy Neal has been since cashing in.

    • Umm okay. Got any proof of this? There has been no media story whatsoever either local nor national indicating this in any way. No indication on the Pens’ “In the Room” series on the website. So unless you’re in the locker room or on the bench with those guys you should probably STFU.

  3. Maybe I’m wrong here, in which case people hate me on the bench, but I’d say an exception is when you’re talking about tendencies that are going to come up again. As in ‘when we work it down low that forward is puck watching and leaving the man in the high slot wide open’ or ‘they’re trying to find the weak side D slipping in the back door’ type things.

    I can’t stand the guys who tell you what you should have done differently on a 2 on 1. Oh I should have passed? That’s great, and I would have if you’d have hit the brakes and opened up a lane instead of staying right next to the D-man. Also, thanks for having your stick at your waist and watching that rebound slide past you.

  4. So, uh, I’m probably guilty of some of what you said. I don’t yell or get mad when people miss me when a pass or get mad when someone points out I missed them. But I do chat strategy a lot because the league I play in is of varying skill.

    I don’t know if I drive everyone crazy, but I can’t shut up when all three forwards are deep in the offensive zone forechecking and they other team breaks out on a 3-2 or 4-2 or when one of our defenseman won’t put his fucking stick on the ice when trying to defend the slot/front of net.

    • Yeah, I play with straight beginners. I talk a lot on the bench, but it’s mostly explaining to people what the slot is, or why it’s bad for 4 people to chase the puck into the corner like it’s middle school soccer. I think, in this context, it’s not a bad thing.

      I also yell from the bench – tell someone he has time, or has a man on, or something like that. The good kids on our team seem to do that. Is this a good thing to do?

      Oh, I also chirp from the bench. But that’s just fun.

      • I was actually just going to raise a similar point WRT beginner-league play. I play in a women’s league that’s 70-85% beginners (most players bounce up into co-ed for greater competition, since there aren’t enough female players for stratification in our league), and more often than not one of the veterans will catch someone as they come off the ice “OK, let’s talk about the off-sides rule for a minute” or “So, when we go into a PK, here’s what you want to do as a Winger” or whatever.

        In those situations, especially when it’s a learning league, I would counter that educational criticism is a good and necessary thing – especially where teams don’t have the opportunity to practice outside of games. It took a half-season of concerted work to get one of the girls to consistently understand and react appropriately to an off-sides situation. We’ve got a half-dozen rinks in the practical driving area, and all of them handle adult player education differently. It’s easy to forget that what’s instinctive or obvious to one player may never have been mentioned to another (as an example of this, I’ve had C-level players ask me with a straight face “What does it mean when the ref raises his left hand instead of his right?” – um, it means he wears his whistle on his right hand…).

        In the A/B level teams, it’s a different story. At that level of play, you’re not providing basic and broad spectrum context education – hypothetical discussion of play execution most definitely belongs over a beer rather than the bench.

  5. I have to agree on the rec league stuff. Two levels of game here. For you pros, no one was trying to do it on purpose. For us hasbeens/neverwases, it doesn’t hurt to try and come up with a basic plan so we have some idea what the other guy is gonna do. Or, if you’re reminding the recent convert from roller hockey what offsides is. Especially if you have recent roller players — they have a very different idea about where they should be.

  6. “Keep skating boys”

  7. The guys who coach from the bench usually are booted off our team very quickly. And funny how nobody seems to want to pick them up again afterward. Nobody likes “that guy”.

  8. I was that guy a while ago and one game my captain told me to stop “commentating the f***ing game.”

    Lesson learned.

  9. Triple-star, underline, circle, and highlight this message and send as Priority Mail to all rec/beer league players. Their advice is THE worst. S-T-F-U, clap, clap, clapclapclap

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